So it was a couple of weeks ago when I had what I hoped would be a packaging-free trip to New York. Aside from the odd sly checking of emails (I just can’t muster the self-discipline not to, especially in the crackberry age) there was to be no work, no packaging, at all.
Until, that is, my wife suggested we do a food tour of the Meatpacking District. I don’t know much about the geography of the Big Apple – this was only my second trip – but with a name like that, it didn’t bode well.
And things took a turn for the worse when it transpired that the epicentre of the area is Chelsea Market, a very chi-chi and foodie mall in a grand building that used to be – no! – a biscuit production and packaging facility for the all-powerful Nabisco.
As it turns out, I must grudgingly admit, there was an interesting packaging story here. The factory produced a brand of crackers called Uneeda (as in, I suppose, ‘when you need a cracker, Uneeda cracker’).
And Uneeda crackers were, it transpires, the very first biscuits to be saved from soggy disintegration by being packed in a wax paper wrapper. A special seal, known as the In-Er Seal, also gave the first text to the oval Nabisco logo that became ubiquitous (and that even a whipper-snapper like me remembers from the Shreddies of my childhood).
Here are some pictures that I took to share with you, dear reader, of the packs on display.
And that wasn’t all. Chelsea Market threw up some other interesting insights into debates around packaging in the US today. One particularly right-on establishment – a coffee-house, as I recall – was selling water in bottles which it proclaimed to be ‘BPA free’. The water, too, was triple filtered and from the tap – so you can’t moan about it being shipped around the place. (That said, I did spot water in a shop on Times Square that had been imported from New Zealand. Why?)
But it was fascinating to see BPA, or a lack of it, being touted as a unique selling point for a product.
Bottom line: you can’t get away from packaging, even when you try. It’s the stuff that surrounds, well, stuff. Still, when a suggestion was made to visit a gallery outside New York that is housed in – you guessed it – a former packaging factory, I politely declined. You need a holiday sometimes…
Josh Brooks is editor of Packaging News. Contact him at email@example.com
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